Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Living With the Choices

My brother’s wife, Millie, is not only one of the best persons I know but one of the best teachers in the country. She has worked mostly in special education and reading, but she can teach anything at any level, and do it better than just about anyone else.

One of the reasons she is so effective is that she understands the place of discipline in education, and thus in life.

When a student transgresses, she says: “Because you chose to do what you did, this is the price you must pay for that choice.”

The kid almost always protests and says, “But I didn’t CHOOSE to do it.”

“How did it happen then?”

The answers are familiar: “She provoked me.” “He made me do it.” “It just happened.”

The bottom line is always the same: It was the result of something, anything, but my choice.

Millie’s answer is always the same: “No, it was your choice.”

In one way the kids are right. We don’t choose, in the sense that we don’t think it through. Millie is more right: If we do it, we have made the choice to do it, even if a thoughtless choice.

Sometimes we pay the price for a lifetime of thoughtless choices made when we are young. We choose to smoke, and we pay with lung cancer. We choose to drink or dope, and we pay with addiction. We choose to carouse, and we pay with pregnancy or disease.

In a democracy, voters get to choose their leaders. One of the difficult things about democracy is that everyone has to live with the results of the choices of the majority.

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